Friday, February 12, 2010

Leading with Your Chin (or "A Picture is Worth More than 900 Op-ed Words")

In the Huffington Post today, trade lawyer and former US Commerce Department poo-bah Gilbert Kaplan has a new op-ed demonizing free trade and advocating all sorts of nasty protectionism, most notably the dramatic "overhaul" (read: expansion) of US trade remedies (antidumping, countervailing duty, etc.) laws to make it easier for US industries to bring and win trade cases against foreign imports, thereby shutting them out of the US market (to consumers' detriment, natch).  Most of the stuff advocated is pretty boring and in no way revolutionary, so normally I'd brush this aside, but I think Kaplan's op-ed provides us with another great, as they say, teachable moment.  Here's the intro to the piece, in which Kaplan lays out his sole justification for all of this great new protectionism:
The last decade has not been a good one for the United States in the international trade arena. We have lost over five million manufacturing jobs, and total manufacturing employment in the U.S. is at a historic low of about twelve million. At the same time there are about 100 million people at work in manufacturing in China. This picture doesn't bode well for people looking for jobs in the U.S. If we want to turn it around we have to radically change what we are doing here in the trade arena.
As I've discussed several times, Kaplan is using one of the most prevalent protectionist myths (if not the most prevalent myth) out there to justify all of his zany trade prescriptions.  But instead of re-hashing my earlier points (helpfully detailed here, by the way), I thought that, since Kaplan's apparently a fan of "pictures," I'll just provide one of my own to instantly rebut his claims that trade has anything to do with US manufacturing job losses:

I think this speaks for itself, but just in case you like to read: in each of these developed economies, including the United States, manufacturing employment has steadily declined since 1970.  In the US in particular, manufacturing employment was declining before NAFTA, before the WTO, and long before international trade (imports and exports) was little more than a rounding error as a percentage of GDP.

And yet Kaplan and his cronies want to completely overhaul US trade law (and do all sorts of other nasty things) because of US manufacturing job losses? 

Umm, no.

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